KIEV - Russian President Vladimir Putin's surprise announcement of a ceasefire plan for Ukraine has been greeted with widespread scepticism, with suspicions still running deep in Kiev and the West over Moscow's true motives.
Analysts suggested Putin could be seeking to create a "frozen conflict" in eastern Ukraine, similar to the situations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Georgia, and Transdniestr in Moldova.
Putin's aim, some analysts believe, is to keep Kiev's pro-Western leaders permanently off balance, thwarting their drive to join NATO and keeping eastern Ukraine's huge industrial base dependent on Russian trade.
The timing of his announcement Wednesday appeared designed to head off possible new Western retaliatory measures over what Kiev has branded a "direct invasion" by Russia.
Kiev and the West reacted with alarm after NATO reported last week that Russia had funnelled troops and heavy weapons to support pro-Kremlin rebels in a counter-offensive that has significantly turned the tide of the five-month conflict.
The Russian strongman, while still denying Moscow has any direct role in the pro-Kremlin uprising across the border, unveiled a seven-point ceasefire plan after talks with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
But his proposals, set to be discussed at a meeting of the OSCE-sponsored Ukraine Contact Group in Minsk on Friday, clearly lack universal support.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen, speaking on the eve of the alliance's summit in Wales where leaders plan to step up their defence of eastern Europe, dismissed the plan as "insincere".
US President Barack Obama, on a visit to Estonia, said it was too early to assess the ceasefire call, and warned that Moscow's attempts to redraw borders "at the barrel of a gun" threatened a united Europe.
"Russia has ripped up the rulebook with its illegal, self-declared annexation of Crimea and its troops on Ukrainian soil threatening and undermining a sovereign nation state," Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in a statement published Thursday.
And despite Poroshenko himself announcing he struck an agreement with Putin on a "permanent ceasefire", his own premier appeared less than convinced.
"This latest plan is another attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the international community," Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk said.